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Rheinmetall's latest Skyranger 35 on Leopard 2 air defense system debuts at Eurosatory 2024.

As suspected by Army Recognition on June 12, 2024, Rheinmetall unveiled a new self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, currently named Skyranger 35 on Leopard 2, at the Eurosatory 2024 exhibition. Combining a Leopard 2 hull with a Skyranger 35 mobile air defense system turret, this hybrid vehicle suggests a potential replacement for the Gepard 1A2 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun (SPAAG) built on the Leopard 1 main battle tank chassis.
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Combining a Leopard 2 hull with a Skyranger 35 mobile air defense system turret, this hybrid vehicle suggests a potential replacement for the Gepard 1A2 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun (SPAAG) (Picture source: Army Recognition)

The purpose of fitting a Leopard 2A4 tank's hull with a Skyranger 35 turret is to create a new mobile ground-based air defense (GBAD) system based on this chassis, as the Skyranger 35 is designed to provide short-range air defense against aerial threats such as drones, helicopters, and low-flying aircraft, as well as ground threats. It features a 35mm revolver cannon capable of firing up to 1,000 rounds per minute and is equipped with advanced sensors for 360° surveillance and target tracking. This system can operate autonomously or be integrated into larger air defense networks, enhancing the protection of mobile units and critical infrastructure, like the Gepard 1A2.

The Skyranger 35 is a mobile air defense system developed by Rheinmetall, equipped with a 35mm Oerlikon Revolver Cannon capable of firing 1,000 rounds per minute with an effective range of up to 4,000 meters. It is designed to counter various aerial threats, including UAVs, helicopters, and missiles, using programmable time-delay ammunition to enhance its ability to hit small and fast-moving targets. The system includes an integrated sensor suite with X-band or Ku-band radar, providing a detection range of up to 30 kilometers, and an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) camera with a laser rangefinder for automatic target tracking.

Therefore, this new vehicle could potentially replace older mobile air defense systems such as the Gepard anti-aircraft gun or other less advanced short-range air defense (SHORAD) systems. In terms of performance, this new vehicle will outclass the aging Gepard 1A2 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun (SPAAG) built on the Leopard 1 main battle tank chassis. The Gepard 1A2 is equipped with twin 35mm Oerlikon KDA autocannons, each with a firing rate of 550 rounds per minute, totaling 1,100 rounds per minute. These cannons use various types of 35mm ammunition, including SAPHEI, HEI, and FAPDS rounds, for an effective range against air targets of up to 5,000 meters.

To date, several vehicles are based on the chassis of the Leopard 2 main battle tank, and this new prototype could add an SPAAG vehicle based on this chassis. The Bergepanzer 3 Büffel is an armored recovery vehicle equipped with a crane system, winch, and support blade to recover damaged vehicles under armored protection. It features a 12-cylinder diesel engine and advanced transmission for improved mobility and performance. The vehicle's crane system, mounted at the front, can lift loads of up to 30 tonnes, and the main winch system supports effective recovery capabilities.

Another vehicle based on the Leopard 2 chassis is the AEV 3 Kodiak, an armored engineering vehicle designed for battlefield engineering tasks such as minefield breaching, obstacle removal, and earth moving. The Kodiak is equipped with an excavator arm, dozer blade, and a range of interchangeable tools, including a hydraulic hammer and earth auger, to perform various engineering operations. The vehicle's design includes a mine-protection package and a camera system for enhanced situational awareness.

The WISENT 2 is a multifunctional armored support vehicle that can serve as both an armored recovery vehicle (ARV) and an armored engineer vehicle (AEV). Designed for recovery missions, military engineering tasks, and mine clearance operations, the WISENT 2 can be converted between ARV and AEV configurations in under five hours. It includes a crane boom, winch system, and various engineering tools, making it suitable for a wide range of battlefield support roles.

Additionally, the Leguan Bridge Layer utilizes a modular bridging system mounted on the Leopard 2 chassis. This vehicle can rapidly deploy bridges to allow other vehicles to cross obstacles such as rivers and ditches. The use of the Leopard 2 chassis provides logistical advantages, as it shares many spare parts and service procedures with other Leopard 2-based vehicles, enhancing operational efficiency and compatibility within NATO forces.

Finally, as reported by Army Recognition on June 17, 2024, Rheinmetall's new Panther Evo Upgrade hybrid tank is featured at the Eurosatory 2024 exhibition in France. This hybrid model combines the Leopard 2A4 chassis with the KF51 Panther turret, which features a 130mm gun. This development might be a demonstrator of Rheinmetall's strategy to offer a modernized variant of the Leopard 2A4 tank, ensuring interoperability with NATO forces and integrating new technologies for enhanced combat capabilities.

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